How Thoughtful Automation switched to Robocorp and slashed robot run times by 60%

The automation consulting company makes much-needed automation solutions accessible through their Bots-as-a-Service, development-focused approach

60%

decrease in worker execution time

10x

increase in worker parallelization

90%

reduction in operating costs

8x

in client time saved

Losing money on high operating costs

When the Fort Lauderdale-based behavioral healthcare company approached Alex Zekoff, CEO of Thoughtful Automation, with a highly manual invoicing process, Zekoff knew it was something his team could automate using robotic workers. But as a growing mid-market company, the $55,000 implementation fee for a single UiPath robot Zekoff and the team originally proposed was an absolute no-go for the client.

“We were losing money to build that bot, just to prove the model worked,” said Zekoff.

Despite having significant automation needs, Zekoff realized that most SMB and mid-market companies miss out on the benefits of RPA because they can’t afford to take significant risk on a typical RPA implementation with steep upfront costs and 3-6 year payback periods. Hosting and maintenance post-implementation would also require businesses to invest in hiring an internal RPA team. Seeing the missed opportunity, Zekoff wanted to drive the implementation fee of his bots down to $0, and adopt a “minimum viable bot” strategy that would accelerate delivery times. Clients could see a return on their investment right away and pay a nominal monthly fee for usage, hosting, and maintenance. Thoughtful Automation could then add to the bots’ capabilities over time as the client’s needs evolved.

With this approach, Thoughtful Automation’s incentives are better aligned to the client’s long-term success. With a monthly billing model, the team has to think holistically about their bots. Rather than only focusing on deployment and collecting a fee, Zekoff said they’re pushed to prioritize actually having a “post go live strategy” to ensure that the bots they develop “stay up and running and working.”

But taking this approach with UiPath proved to be challenging. Thoughtful Automation was forced to pay for not just the robot licenses, but also for the hosting and managing of those robots. For each robot, Thoughtful Automation estimates they paid $1,000 for the SQL servers + $20,000 for the orchestrator + $8,000 for the license for a total of $29,000 per robot every month. “We were losing money to build that bot, just to prove the model worked,” said Zekoff.

Running into roadblocks with proprietary technology

Even though UiPath did have a cloud offering, something automation engineering lead Serheii Romanets knew could help cut some of their operating costs, the lack of flexibility and technical limitations were too great to justify switching.

“We wanted the ability to basically control every setting, so we could send requests to the cloud platform and get it back a certain way,” said Romanets. But the focus on low-code means that “it’s made for business users to interact with,” and the granular controls and settings Thoughtful Automation were looking for were not available.

“What we want is to be able to own the responsibility of the code. We don’t want to assign that to the vendor,” said Romanets.

In addition, Thoughtful Automation’s development team had already started to run into roadblocks due to UiPath’s prescriptive ways of building. “Anytime we wanted to do anything more sophisticated, which is where the real business value comes about because you’re getting to the secret sauce of how a business does something in their own way, I always had to leave the platform and do it in PowerShell and come up with some creative workaround,” said Romanets.

Built primarily for business users who don’t code, packaged offerings force developers to work within a highly prescriptive support model that fails to support more complex needs. As a development-focused company, sticking with a proprietary tool from a technical perspective was no longer a viable option. Even on their cloud offering, UiPath’s packaged technology meant Thoughtful Automation would still pay more for their support model and own less of the design decisions. “What we want is to be able to own the responsibility of the code. We don’t want to assign that to the vendor,” said Romanets.

Shifting from packaged to open source

Knowing the team wanted to move away from packaged software, Thoughtful Automation started to evaluate open source RPA technologies. They had two key criteria: they wanted to be able to control development at the code-level, and they wanted a low-maintenance cloud solution that could easily scale horizontally from 1 to 100 bots without additional overhead.

The team considered frameworks like the Python-based Robot Framework and Selenium. But while that solved the scalability problem, it didn’t solve the deployment problem. “We don’t want to be in the business of managing servers or databases,” said Romanets. “We want to focus on solving business problems using all the tools available to our advantage.”

Realizing that they needed a hybrid open source and SaaS offering, the team found Robocorp. Not yet generally available, Zekoff himself reached out to see if their team could get early access. From just playing with Robocorp’s preinstalled examples, reading the documentation, and running his own Python tests, Romanets knew within minutes that he had found the solution for their needs. “Robocorp manages the orchestration, servers, databases, and makes it easy for our developers to quickly get up to speed,” said Romanets. “I just have to focus on automation as code.”

Robocorp’s resource-based pricing also easily supported Thoughtful Automation’s goal of a $0 implementation fee. Instead of paying per robot license that sits idle when in off-peak hours, Thoughtful Automation could ensure that their costs were as optimized as possible, paying only for the robot minutes that they used.

Migrating bots from UiPath to Robocorp

The team started migrating their bots from UiPath to Robocorp right away. Romanets, whose experience is primarily in Python and UiPath as an RPA developer, found Robocorp’s libraries and Python-native compatibility to be “much more intuitive than the UiPath approach.”

From an infrastructure and management perspective, what used to take hours getting up and running, with Robocorp, “I don’t have to deploy anything. It’s gone from hours to really nothing,” said Romanets.

“For me, I type faster than I click,” said Romanets. And unlike UiPath’s XML format, merging changes with colleagues in Robocorp is painless and easy to track. And because Robocorp is built on open source and supported by a robust developer community, “you can find solutions and overcome challenges really quickly.”

From an infrastructure and management perspective, what used to take hours getting up and running, with Robocorp, “I don’t have to deploy anything. It’s gone from hours to really nothing,” said Romanets.

From start to end, the migration process took just two weeks. “But that was just for our first bot, and I was spending a lot of time familiarizing myself with Robocorp’s libraries and getting the settings configured,” said Romanets. “Our next bots are already being developed in about half that time.”

In addition, Thoughtful Automation has found that they’re able to get support from Robocorp much quicker and easier. With a shared Slack channel between Robocorp’s product and engineering teams and Thoughtful Automation’s team, getting support from real people is just a message away. From Zekoff’s experience, “we asked for an API, and you guys built an API.”

Faster run times the client noticed

For the first bot that the team migrated over, runs originally would take an average of 100 seconds. In Robocorp, the team saw run times decrease to 40 seconds, or a 60% reduction in individual threads.

Thoughtful Automation also knew they needed to increase their robotic workers’ parallelization to ensure their clients’ backlogs were completed as quickly as possible. But because of charges per robot license, they were constrained to a 1x parallelization per license. With Robocorp, their already more efficient robots were running even faster at a 10x parallelization, the soft limit currently imposed by Robocorp.

The client noticed. “They were feeding the bot and the bot was knocking it out in almost real time,” said Zekoff, and “he even commented and asked what we did to achieve it.” What previously took 2 employees processing 30 invoices a day at full capacity, Thoughtful Automation was able to reduce to ¼ of an employee processing 90 invoices a day, or 8x in employee time saved and a 3x increase in invoice processing speed.

In addition to faster run times, by doing away with costly licenses and infrastructure overhead, Zekoff said that they went from “basically losing money” on their bot to operating at a profit. “That’s huge for us,” said Zekoff, “because now we can price this lower for our clients and pass on the value to them.”

Need development help? Contact official Robocorp partner Thoughtful Automation and jumpstart your automation initiatives today.